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"I can't help crying, Caroline, because I have some very sad news," Maud Shaw wrote in her 1966 memoir White House Nannie

By Michelle Tauber
Updated July 01, 2015 10:00 AM
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Credit: Nate D. Sanders Auctions

Maud Shaw cared for the Kennedy children for 7 ½ years, playing “army” with John Jr. (he gave the orders, she was the nurse) and teaching John Jr. and his sister Caroline how to curtsy for the Queen.

“One of the classic English nannies,” as her nephew Ian Roberts describes her in this week’s PEOPLE cover story, Shaw – who died at age 85 in 1988 – was so trusted that when JFK was assassinated in 1963, Jackie’s mother, Janet Auchincloss, asked the steadfast caretaker to break the news to First Daughter Caroline, then nearly 6 years old.

Shaw shared her memory of that awful day in her 1966 memoir, White House Nannie, excerpted below.

“I sat on the edge of [Caroline]’s bed [that night] and felt tears well up in my eyes. Caroline looked up at me.

“What’s the matter, Miss Shaw? Why are you crying?’ I took her in my arms. ‘I can’t help crying, Caroline, because I have some very sad news.’ ”

“Then I told her. It was a dreadful time for us both. Eventually she fell asleep while I sat on the bed, still patting her. At last I tiptoed from the room, leaving the door open just a crack, as always.”

From WHITE HOUSE NANNIE by Maud Shaw, reprinted by arrangement with New American Library, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 1965, 1966 by Maud Shaw and Southern News Services Ltd., Maidstone, England.

For all the intimate photos and exclusive remembrances of JFK, First Lady Jackie and their life with two small children in the White House, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday